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Illegal software on SU devices

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

Stellenbosch University devices are equipped with the necessary software for our staff to perform their work effectively. This includes the latest operating system; all the Microsoft applications (Office 365, including Word, Excel, PowerPoint, etc.), Adobe Acrobat Professional, TeraTerm and the necessary Antivirus software. Licenses for specialist software can also be purchased through the IT department, will fall under the University’s educational license and therefore be less expensive than a license bought in a personal capacity. These include Adobe Creative Cloud; MatLab and Statistica, among others.

Installing and using this software is essential for staff, however some of our staff use their SU devices for their own personal use and subsequently download and install non-supported as well as illegal software on their PCs.  This includes games and illegal series or movies.

Not only does this put the University’s network at a high risk security-wise, it also puts the University at risk legally. Even if Information Technology does not install the software, we are still being held responsible for it if it’s an SU asset and it runs on our network. 

The fight against illegal software and piracy is mainly fought by the BSA. The Business Software Alliance (BSA) confronts companies that use or distribute illegal
software. Read BSA’s statement on illegal software. 

Therefore we kindly request that you ensure that if you install software, it’s safe and legal to use. Otherwise it might have implications for you and the University.

What is MFA?

Tuesday, May 12th, 2020

Security risks and innovative cyber criminals are nothing new, however, when we work from home, these risks increase expeditiously. The only way we can combat security breaches is by adding extra measures of which Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is one. Information Technology is currently rolling out MFA for all staff and students.  But first, let’s explain what MFA is.


Multi-factor authentication (MFA) seeks to decrease the likelihood that others can access your data.  

Specifically, it enhances the security of your UserID by using your phone, tablet or other device to verify your identity when you attempt to access Stellenbosch University’s network and resources.  

It takes two items to access and update your information: “something you know” (e.g. your password) and “something you have” (e.g. your phone). For example, when you visit an ATM, one authentication factor is the ATM card you use to start the transaction – that’s the “something you have.” Next, you enter a PIN, which is the “something you know.” Without both these factors, your authentication will fail.  


Passwords are becoming increasingly easy to compromise. They can be stolen, guessed and hacked and new technology and hacking techniques combined with the limited pool of passwords most people use for multiple accounts means information online is increasingly vulnerable. You might not even know who else has your password and is accessing your accounts.  

In addition, experience has shown that people are not as good at recognising malicious email as you might think. Every day, members of the Stellenbosch University community fall prey to cyber scams.  

We must take steps to ensure that we are more than just a single click away from having our pay check stolen or becoming a victim of identity theft.  

Multi-Factor Authentication adds a second layer of security to your account to ensure that your account stays safe, even if someone else knows your password. This second factor of authentication is separate and independent from the UserID and password step — MFA never uses or even sees your password. 

Although MFA is not yet mandatory, you can already enrol by following these steps.

Read more on MFA: 

Back to basics: Multi-factor authentication (MFA)

What is Multi-factor authentication? And why is it important?


Zoom not recommended for meetings

Friday, May 8th, 2020

Over the past few weeks we’ve had to find new ways of connecting with people. Zoom has become the popular choice for anything from online exercise classes to quizzes. While it is perfectly fine for personal use, we do not recommend Zoom for your official meetings with colleagues or students. Although it’s simple to set up and free, there are multiple security risks.

Why take the risk if Microsoft Teams can do the same safely?

To help you make an informed decision we prepared a comparison table of Adobe Connect, Teams and Zoom. The comparison table shows the strengths and weaknesses of each product and the areas marked in red are serious weaknesses. Do not use a product if any area is marked red. 

SUNStream is based on Adobe Connect and runs on a server on campus which is fully integrated with SUNLearn. It will be zero-rated to allow students to access the system without data costs. This is the preferred streaming platform for lecture use and is particularly suited for larger classed as it uses a very structured approach. Adobe Connect is also fully integrated with SUNLearn.  

Teams has become the University standard for meetings and is also suitable for classes of up to 250 participants. Teams is not just a streaming service; it is an excellent collaboration platform. Teams has also been integrated into SUNLearn, allowing lecturers to use class groups within Teams. Unfortunately it will not be zero-rated soon, since it is running on the Microsoft commercial cloud. 

*  NB. If you record your meetings in teams, keep in mind that the recording will be available to everyone who attended the meeting – even if just for a short while as a guest. Don’t use your current meeting to continue a different meeting, for example with a smaller group. If you do this everyone who attended the initial meeting will be able to listen to your recording.  Rather create a separate one. More on privacy and security in Microsoft Teams.

Zoom has become very popular largely due to its ease of use – but therein lies the risk: security and ease of use are on the opposites of the scale. Zoom places the burden on the users to protect themselves. Two South African ministers have found themselves in trouble when using Zoom, the latest being reported 6 May 2020 in a so-called “Zoombombing” incident. (also see below what “Zoombombing” is) The University regards Zoom as a risk, and will not support its use.  

Also read security expert, Basie von Solms’, article on protecting your video calls on LitNet (unfortunately only available in Afrikaans) and Computerworld’s article on the do’s and don’ts of video conferencing security.


ZoombombingZoom-bombing or Zoom raiding[1] is the unwanted intrusion into a video conference call by an individual, causing disruption. The term became popularized in 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic forced many people to stay at home and videoconferencing was used on a large scale by businesses, schools, and social groups. The term is associated with and derived from the name of the Zoom videoconferencing software program but it has also been used to refer to the phenomenon on other video conferencing platforms.[2][3][4]

SOURCE: Wikipedia


Phishing attack from compromised staff account with attached “Secure Message”

Wednesday, May 6th, 2020

With most students and personnel all working from home during the national lockdown, and with the reduced security (and watchfulness) of home computers and personnel/students in their home environment, and with many forced to use unfamiliar means of communication and collaboration like Teams, Zoom, Skype and Skype For Business, the environment is ripe for exploitation by phishers.

The following e-mail (with an infected attachment) is making its rounds at the moment from  a staff email.

If you get an email that look like the following do not open or respond to it. It is quite likely that the personnel doesn’t even know his account is compromised.

Please be careful when opening up attachments “sent” by colleagues especially if they are unannounced or the e-mail makes you feel a bit suspicious. Always trust your instincts.

“Sextortion” scams

Tuesday, April 28th, 2020

There has been a resurgence of “sextortion” phishing scams recently but with a slight twist.

“Extortion phishing” or “sextortion” is an aggressive form of a phishing attack that targets potential victims in an e-mail demanding bitcoin in exchange for a promise of non-disclosure of an alleged sexual offence.

The aim of these sextortion e-mails is clear – to force their intended victims to pay up for their silence, or the footage will be shared on social networks. Ultimately this is a typically insidious scam that could easily snare an unsuspecting user.

This variant however has an added twist, in that the phishing scammers are displaying a stolen password (from other websites) that their victims use, to grab their victim’s attention.

It is usually those other websites (e,g,. hotmail, Instagram, Paycity or Facebook) that hackers use to gain access to our data, so changing those passwords are very important.

As in the example below we received earlier this week:
















Several students and personnel say that they have also received similar phishing e-mails, and that password that they had used were displayed in the subject line. They were all concerned that their network account was under attack.

If you receive such a mail, there is little danger to you UNLESS you

  1. respond to the sender
  2. still use that same password for other non-university accounts and use a variation of that password.

If it is an old password that they are displaying, then the danger to you is relatively small, but if you are still using it on a different website or application please change and update immediately.



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